Seeing Your Business’s Future

But not every technology that gets billed as the next big thing actually comes to fruition. Sinclair C5 anyone?

Also, society changes its priorities over time. For example, the ideal of being green is important, but was considered irrelevant not long ago. On the other hand, the benefits of being nuclear free have become much less clear. Not only is the Cold War over, but quite a few environmentalists now argue that going nuclear is the only effective way to combat climate change. I'm not taking a position, I'm just demonstrating the point that the concept that something is "right" changes over time.

It's important to have your antennae out so that you to have some idea of what is going to really impact your business, and react accordingly.

How to be a fast follower

The first point is that it's not possible to be an "early adopter" using the method that I will describe. It's just possible to be a "fast follower". In other words, you won't ever be in the first group to adopt something new, but you can be close behind. In business, that can have significant advantages.

Being an early adopter is usually down to personality. Some people just love being on the leading edge. Within that group, some people have a nose for what's going to be big. And this can change over time. Sinclair was on the leading edge with calculators and computers but went wrong with the C5. Apple was ahead with the Apple 2 and Macintosh, but then failed with the Newton, only to storm back in recent years. It's not easy.

So here are my three rules for deciding when to be a fast follower:

  • Notice the hype, but don't believe it. When something starts receiving a lot of hype, don't automatically assume that it will be big, but do put it on your watch list. Emerging trends are usually debated by journalists at an early stage. Also social networks such as Twitter can be a great predictor, so if people are discussing it then it's fair to say something is making waves.
  • Examine the growth curve. When a trend eventually goes mainstream, a lot of people that jump on the bandwagon will stay and become advocates. On the other hand, something that's too expensive, too difficult or just not catching on will see people start dumping it. The growth will look exponential if the people already on board continue to see real benefits. It may be hard to get adoption figures, but if none are around, they are probably bad. The people selling the new thing will always proclaim any high growth figures from the rooftops.
  • Get in fast once you can see the trend. The best opportunities come not from working out how a technology or fashion will impact business, but by exploiting it fully when others have taken the risks and already sorted out the problems.

These principles have worked for me in a highly technology driven and fast moving business, E-Commerce. However, I believe that they can be applied very widely. I hope you find them useful!

By Chris Barling, is CEO of E-Commerce specialist, Sellerdeck. Originally published on BusinessZone

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